News and Other Busyness
McLibel Trial Latest
Squall 14, Autumn 1996, pg. 9.
TWELVE court days after the McLibel trial returned from its summer recess on October 7th, the case became the longest British court battle in history.
According to the Guinness Book of Records, the previous record set in the 1870s was the Tichborne personation case (we know not - sq) which registered 291 days in court. When the McLibel trial recessed for summer, the number of days in court stood at 280, meaning the trial will easily become a record-breaker.
The trial evidence was completed before the recess and all that remains to be heard are the sum-up speeches from each party, for which a maximum of three weeks each has been set. Bearing in mind that the co-defendants, Dave Morris and Helen Steel are considered to be separate parties, the maximum sum up period is nine weeks. Whether or not Richard Rampton QC, McDonald’s huffing legal representative, will take three weeks to sum up the burger giant’s case is a matter of some doubt, but the McLibel team are expecting some last minute legal manoeuvres from McDonald’s. Under British libel law the suing party can alter its statement of claim all the way up to the moment the judge retires to consider his verdict. The sum up period and further legal argument will take the trial up to the Christmas period.
It is thus thought unlikely that the judge’s verdict will come before the end of this year and is in fact expected around January/Feburary.
When delivered, however, the verdict is unlikely to be clear cut. McDonald’s have cited 16 specific subject areas over which the ‘What’s wrong with McDonald’s’ factsheet is allegedly libellous and the Judge will issue verdict on each one of these. He will also be required to make judgement on the McLibel defendants’ counter claim, issued after a McDonald’s leaflet described the accusations levelled against them as ‘lies’. All in all then the judge will make 32 judgements - 16 on whether the allegedly libellous factsheet has been proved true and 16 on whether the factsheet has been proved lies!
As a result the verdict is likely to be various in which party it favours, although the McLibel team consider that, with British libel law as it stands, McDonald’s will probably get the majority of favourable decisions. However, it is undoubtedly the case that more factsheets have been distributed, more worldwide campaigners activated against McDonald’s, more public knowledge of their techniques of market control and more adverse media coverage has resulted from their surely regretted decision to sue in the first place.
The McLibel Support Campaign are initiating an ‘adopt a store’ scheme for leaflet distribution.
McLibel Support Team: 0171 713 1269